The Battle for Bab

Sinan Cudi

Although we cannot predict the outcome of the competition, disagreements and conflicts between the major powers, and how the chaotic political/military/economic structures will end up, we know the geographical area that this will be decided in al-Bab.

After the launch of the ‘Wrath of Euphrates’ operation on 5 November 2016, it is seen as a certainty that Deash’s (Islamic State) last stronghold in Syria will fall. The certainty lies in the fact that all of the YPG/SDF’s operations so far have ended in success. This assurance directs people to think about the situation post-Raqqa. Most discussions are now centred on what will happen in Syria after Daesh, how each party will position themselves, how the new administration will be shaped and what the Kurds’ role in this will be. This of course will all change if the plan concocted by Erdogan succeeds.

In fact, the positive discussions -about the future of Syria- that began following the SDF’s liberation of Manbij on 13 August, were disrupted by the Turkish state’s invasion of Jarablus on 24 August and the balance of affairs was upset. The Turkish state did everything in its power to prevent the SDF from liberating Manbij and for Daesh to gain a victory. When it couldn’t succeed in this it had to become actively involved in the war and invaded first Jarablus and then Rai.

In the beginning Turkey convinced the Baath regime, Russia and the U.S. that the intervention was only to prevent the Kurds from advancing; however later developments revealed that the Erdogan diktat was not limiting itself to this. It is now clear that this fascistic initiative, which is termed neo-Ottomanism, is targeting the region’s people, aims to stoke instability and is trying to prevent alternatives to the nation-state system from emerging.

Are Kurds being pushed out of the political sphere?

It is true that there are efforts to achieve this. The Turkish state, Baath regime, Russia and coalition states are part of a political line that wants to limit the effects of the Rojava Revolution. The silence of regional and international powers against the attacks on the SDF and Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) as well as their denial of the political power (MSD) affiliated with the YPG/SDF shows the stance of this political line.

Complications and the unlikelihood of a solution to the crisis can also be viewed from the proposal for eastern Aleppo to have autonomy, which despite being rational, is something that the warring sides can never agree on; the (seemingly) irreconcilable contradictions between the U.S. and Russia and the secret meetings between the U.S. and Turkish state, as well as between the latter and China and Russia show that we are far from a solution.

In short none of the powers struggling for influence in Syria and the region have decided on what the new system will look like. Negotiations and bargaining continues. Consequently no power wants the other to progress or be ahead.

But will any of this disrupt or even bring to the edge of defeat the peoples’ alternative search for a system -represented by the MSD- and strengthen the status quo and its forces?

Only in the past 2 days (20-21 November) almost a thousand young people have voluntarily joined the SDF’s ranks, making it a force that cannot be disregarded, denied and pushed out of the field. Compare this with the forces that the U.S., Turkey and others have tried to create with train-equip projects and the alternatives put forward by the Baath regime and Russia and we can see that none of them come anywhere near the level reached by the SDF.

It is of great importance for the region that the project proposed by the MSD liberates al-Bab and Raqqa. If this doesn’t happen it will be very likely that the flames of the war engulfing the whole region will be fanned and spread even wider.